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Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar, nicknamed Caesarion (little Caesar) Greek: Πτολεμαῖος ΙΕʹ Φιλοπάτωρ Φιλομήτωρ Καῖσαρ, Καισαρίων, Ptolemaĩos Philopátōr Philomḗtōr Kaĩsar, Kaisaríōn (June 23, 47 BC – August, 30 BC) was the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egyptmarker, who reigned, as a child, jointly with his mother Cleopatra VII of Egypt from September 2, 44 BC to August, 30 BC, when he was killed on orders of Octavian, who would become the Roman emperor Augustus. He was the eldest son of Cleopatra VII, and the only known son of Julius Caesar, for whom he was named.


Ptolemy XV, sometimes referred to as "Ptolemy Caesar", most commonly known by his nickname Caesarion, was born in Egypt in 47 BC and was the son of Julius Caesar. He spent two of his early years, from 46–44 BC, in Rome, where he and his mother were Caesar's guests. Cleopatra VII hoped that her son would eventually succeed his father as the head of the Roman Republic as well as Egypt. After Caesar's assassination on March 15, 44 BC, Cleopatra and Caesarion returned to Egypt. Caesarion was named co-ruler by his mother on September 2, 44 BC at the age of three, although he was King in name only, with Cleopatra VII keeping actual authority to herself.

During the tense period of time leading up to the final conflict between Mark Antony and Octavian (future Emperor Augustus), Antony, who at that time shared control of the Republic in a triumvirate with Octavian and Lepidus, granted various eastern lands and titles to Caesarion and to his own three children with Cleopatra (in 34 BC). Caesarion was proclaimed "King of Kings." Most threatening to Octavian (whose claim to power was based on his status as Julius Caesar's grandnephew and adopted son), Antony declared Caesarion to be Caesar's true son and heir. These proclamations, known as the Donations of Alexandria, caused a fatal breach in Antony's relations with Octavian, who used Roman resentment over the Donations to gain support for war against Antony and Cleopatra.

When Octavian invaded Egypt in 30 BC, Cleopatra VII sent Caesarion, then seventeen years old, to the Red Sea port of Berenicemarker for safety, with possible plans of an escape to India. Octavian captured the city of Alexandriamarker on August 1, 30 BC, the date that marks the official annexation of Egyptmarker to the Roman Republic. Mark Antony had committed suicide prior to Octavian's entry into the capital; Cleopatra followed his example by committing suicide on August 12, 30 BC. Caesarion's guardians, including his tutor, either were themselves lured by false promises of mercy into returning the boy to Alexandria or perhaps even betrayed him; the records are unclear. Octavian had Caesarion executed there, with the words "Two Caesars is one too many". No events concerning his death have been documented. Due to his young age of 17 years it is supposed he was executed by strangulation.

Octavian then assumed absolute control of Egypt. The year 30 BC was considered the first year of the new ruler's reign according to the traditional chronological system of Egypt. In lists of the time Octavian himself appears as a Pharaoh and the successor to Caesarion.
  • In art, Caesarion is thought to be depicted in a partial statue found in the harbor of Alexandriamarker by Franck Goddio in 1997.
  • He is also thought to be portrayed in relief, though as an adult pharaoh, with his mother on the Temple of Hathor at Denderamarker, above.

Egyptian names

In addition to his Greek name and nicknames, Caesarion also had a full set of royal names in the Egyptian language:
  • Iwapanetjer entynehem
  • Setepenptah
  • Irmaatenre
  • Sekhemankhamun

These are usually translated as:
  • "Heir of the God who saves"
  • "Chosen of Ptah"
  • "Carrying out the rule of Ra"
  • "Living Image of Amun"

Source: Chronicle of the Pharaohs, by Peter Clayton (1994), ISBN 0500050740

References in popular media

  • Caesarion appears in the 1963 film Cleopatra. He is portrayed as a sweet child, and a loyal co-ruler with his mother. However, history is altered when he appears to be about 12-years-old, instead of 17, when he died.
  • In the Asterix comic book Asterix and Son, at the end of the book Caesarion is revealed as being the baby boy that Asterix had found on his doorstep and had been looking after. (The original French title of the graphic novel is Le fils d'Asterix .)
  • The 2005-07 BBC/HBO television historical fiction miniseries Rome features a version of Caesarion as a minor character. The part is played by two young actors, the older of the two being Max Baldry, and the younger, Nicolo Brecci. In the show, there is a strong presumption that he is actually the son of the soldier Titus Pullo by Cleopatra, who seduces Pullo in an attempt to become pregnant at about the same time she begins her affair with Caesar. When Antony and Cleopatra fall, Pullo and his comrade Lucius Vorenus slip through Octavian's border guards with the child, though Vorenus is severely wounded. In a departure from history, Pullo reports to Octavian that Caesarion is dead, when in fact he has been brought to Rome under an assumed name to live with Pullo. Though there is no direct dialogue about his age, the character is visibly far younger than seventeen years.
  • The novel Cleopatra's Heir by Gillian Bradshaw, portrays Caesarion as an epileptic (like his father Julius Caesar), who, after being wounded during an attack by Roman soldiers, is left for dead. Escaping his funeral pyre, he flees, but has a seizure. He is discovered by an Egyptian merchant, who cares for him. Over time, Caesarion turns from a haughty prince to a decent young man, and ultimately, he must decide whether or not to give up his old life in exchange for a new one in peace.
  • In the novel Antony and Cleopatra by Colleen McCullough, Caesarion is portrayed as a precociously wise young man who deplores many of his mother’s and Antony’s actions. He does, however, remain loyal to them until death.
  • Caesarion appears as the main character in a novel called "La stanza sull'acqua" written by Roberto Pazzi and published in 1991 by Garzanti in Italy. The book has been translated in many countries.
  • In the adventure / romance novel Hail Caesar: Vol. II. / Brotherhood of Men, by Roman de Caesar, the sarcophagus of Caesarion as well as the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, which were discovered and spirited away by the French archeologist Francois Fauxchoux during Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign, are main focal points of the story.

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